October 20, 2010 at 4:20 am (MJ, Parenthood)

A few unrelated notes from our weekend:

On Mrs. G’s suggestion that Sun Chips are good for keeping a marriage alive, Friday night I came home with a bag.  I showed him the post, too.

“Look, we can see if our [compost] worms will eat the [100% compostable!] bag”, I said. 

Our compost worms?  They don’t even know who you are,” replied Mark.  This being a thinly veiled dig (ha) at me for not helping once in the garden this year. 

“True, I don’t bury our compost,” I admitted.  “Perhaps I was too busy paying the bills”.  Zing!  The last time Mark paid a bill was a few months before he moved in together with me.  Meaning his finances were one of the first of his messes I cleaned up.  (Don’t misunderstand, he’s cleaned up plenty of mine.)  Not his strong suit, money management.

“Friendly” banter ensued about who does what around here.  An interesting consideration, really, how much we should leave as only one party’s responsibility.  In the corporate world I worked in, we had a back-up for every task.  Mark and I probably overlap more on what we’re capable of than many couples.  I do more around the house now, but Mark is quite capable of all things domestic, and chips in when he notices something piling up.  Our biggest exclusive jobs are all things outside (him) and all things money-related (me).  These have held true whichever one of us held an outside job, or when both of us did.  I maintain that if I died he would be more screwed than I would be if he died.  Beyond the obvious emotional upset, of course.  It would be a long time before lack of pruning caused serious ills to the family, but lack of paying the water bill is a different story.

On one level it seems like having a few chores that are exclusively one partner or the other’s would work out.  A hundred years ago most chores were assigned by sex.  But it seems that in this marriage, we both could use a little help.  (Or perhaps we are both just oh so slightly overwhelmed at times by the work that four children and a house entails.)  My husband’s solution: “If we could just get the worms to pay the bills…”


Watching Parker make it up a long (0.6 mile) steep hill on his bike filled me with pride.  At his perseverance and at his athleticism.  Watching Parker go down the same hill filled me with fear.  At one point, going at a tremendous speed, he caught serious air, as the kids used to say, from the dip of a driveway.  He has always been good at knowing the limits of his body, and he was fine, but whew!  There is no doubt he is a big kid now.


Friday morning I took one look in the fridge and realized something needed to be done.  Mark had brought in from the garden-I-never-visit a cup containing tiny tomatoes and tiny green peppers on many successive days.  Having also quite the crop of corn in which only half the kernels matured, I decided chili was in order.  Out came a few varieties of dried beans to soak.  Greta and I spent a good while chopping, her taking off stems and taking the role of QC (Quality Control) by selecting those to donate to the worms.  Saturday morning I began boiling the beans.  A little behind schedule, sometime late Saturday afternoon I added the vegetables.  Said good-bye to Mark who was off to perform the good duties of library book returner and baseball game watcher.  Added some spice, tinkered around the house.  Told the older three kids they could make forts with not one, but two couches worth of cushions.  I was feeling generous.  Apparently we are a lazing family because I’ve just counted them up to 19 cushions!  19!  Enough for three children, yes?  “But you need to work out any troubles with sharing the cushions yourselves.  If things end up with screaming or hitting you’re done with them.  Do you understand?”  Happiness ensued for a time.  Another piece of background here is that I have a cold, and a baby with a cold and a growth spurt, and I really hadn’t slept well in a number of days.

A small disagreement over the footprint for each child’s house broke out.  I swooped in and went through the drill that always goes something like this: “Greta’s screaming because she wants a place, right?  Can you find her a place?”  “That’s your place?  OK, Greta, how about if I help you make a nice little spot here?”  “Oh, Parker, you like this spot I made better?  Well, I made it for Greta.  Greta, you still want your brother’s old spot?  OK, problem solved.”  You will notice, I did not enforce my initial condition for playing with cushions.  Mistake.  As there was not too much screaming, I let it slide.  Then five minutes later, I played referee and let it slide again.  Really, it’s hard do anything sometimes without making Greta scream.  Make her breakfast, for instance.

I smelled burning.  To get the veggies cooking, I’d turned up the chili just a smidge higher than I usually would’ve.  Two days worth of work and all the remaining bounty from the garden, all inflicted with the taste of the beans that were seriously scorched at the bottom.  I was mad.  I wanted to cry.  I was hungry.  My four children started screaming, some about unfair couch cushion portions, some in need for milk.  I wanted to scream myself.  What to do, what to do?  Have to make this better…? 

Cookies, I thought!  (I am nothing if not an emotional eater.)  There’s cookies in the car!  I grabbed the car keys, the smallest child, and headed out past the Cushion Wars unnoticed.  Plunked in the passenger seat with my sleeve of cookies, whatever hormone that is that comes with nursing (Oxytocin, maybe?), a cuddable baby, and the commiseration that is Facebook, things got better.  About halfway through my sleeve of cookies and five minutes into this break, I spied my three children, dressed for outside play, exit the front door and head around through the backyard gate, looking like they were on a mission.  Nice, I thought.  They decided to get some fresh air.  They aren’t fighting anymore.  No hurry to get inside.  Though they aren’t supposed to go into the front without a parent knowing, they did go straight to the backyard. 

Another five minutes, the remaining half sleeve of cookies, a few more deep breaths for me, a burp for the baby, and I headed back in. 

“Mooooom, where WERE you?” Auden cried.  Oh no, they were worried about me.  Crap!  “We looked all over for you, even outside!”  Oh, that’s what their mission was.  Much assurance that Mama would never leave them followed.  And hugs.  Have I mentioned that I love my Auden boy?  Mr. Responsiblity and Mr. Sensitive.  (Not that I’d label my children, right?)  He had the phone, and a scrap of paper that he’d written my sister’s phone number on that he keeps in his wallet.  He also keeps his dad’s business card with all his numbers in his safe.  Yes, he’s six, and he requested a safe (it’s his own padlocked drawer in a file cabinet).  To my knowledge, he’s never actually dialed the phone without parental help though.  But good thinking.  Appropriate to call your (local) aunt and say, “Auntie Al-Gal, I can’t find my mom!”  We had a good talk about different emergencies and what to do.  When you’d call your aunt, when you’d call 911.  I don’t think I caused any lasting worries.  But I won’t be leaving them, even just to hide in the car, without telling them, again.  And Mark came home with pizza.


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